Requests were coming in through a chaotic system of emails, desk drivebys, and even sticky notes. Promising ideas were falling through the cracks. Senior team members were bombarded with questions because they were the only sources of key process knowledge. And multiple, out-of-sync spreadsheets brought project momentum to a crawl.
This is what Perrie Howes of Safelite Autoglass inherited, and it’s a common scene at many companies. Perrie, who holds the title of Marketing Traffic Coordinator, serves as a kind of air traffic controller for the 70-year-old company, coordinating the transmission of information and assets between internal and external teams of marketers, writers, designers, and PR folks.
From print ads to radio and television spots, Perrie is responsible for ensuring that all marketing projects are completed on time and on budget. And with more than 6 million customers in 720 locations across all 50 states, the number of projects Perrie and her team are being asked to deliver is staggering. As the team’s workload grew in volume and complexity, it became obvious they needed a flexible system to manage the chaos and successfully execute.
We got in touch with Perrie to learn how she’s been able to ditch the chaos of spreadsheets and sticky notes for a streamlined system that’s enabling her team to deliver Operational Excellence.
We’d love to know more about you and your background. How did you find your way to Safelite AutoGlass?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles and then came out to Columbus for school. I moved around a bit and even lived in Colorado for a while as a pastry chef. After that I came back to Ohio and started working in more program and project management roles, which is what I fell into here at Safelite as their Marketing Traffic Coordinator. We have an in-house agency, which is where we have our Director of Creative Services, designers, a multimedia designer, and then myself as our little in-house agency team. I've been doing this for nearly two years here.
So what does a Marketing Traffic Coordinator do?
Basically, I’m a controller, traffic coordinator, and traffic project manager. It's all the same kind of thing. I’m in charge of tracking and overseeing all the projects that our team handles to support our different business stakeholders.
What are some of your main challenges and pressures?
My main role is to make sure each project, from beginning to end, travels swiftly and accurately through each stage. So that starts with an inquiry or a kickoff meeting with a business stakeholder. We work with several internal partners, which could be our B2B arm, or it could be our PR folks or our event folks. Our B2C work could be anything from a TV shoot that we're doing for our commercials and radio buys or local marketing activities in each of the 50 states.
A wide variety of things come through our funnel. They may need creative support, a pass at brand standards, or a new identity if they don’t have one already. So we kick off those projects with each partner, flush out the brief, and get an understanding of the goals and what is exactly being asked for.
Once it's packaged up, I'll send it off to a designer who either works with the partner or just knocks it out themselves. Then, it comes back into my court and it’s my responsibility to either produce it or send it off if it's just a digital delivery. That could be anything from a small and large format print or even environmental remodels that require signage and lighting to create the space. That's the main gist of my role, as well as just making sure the designers have what they need in order to succeed on the project; whether it's copy, clear direction, or reevaluating the scope if things change. Basically, I try to get the logistics off of the creative so that we can each do our functional jobs without having to do all the other things.
What were things like before using Wrike?
Intakes were mostly emails sent to either me or directly to our Creative Director, Brian. He's been here at Safelite for 20 years. It became a habit for folks to just go to Brian, but it quickly became obvious we needed a system. So we created a form which sometimes got used, and sometimes didn't. Emails were probably 70% of the requests.
We would also get drive-bys where people would just come by our desk, tell us an idea, say they needed it tomorrow, and ditch. That didn't happen too often, but as anyone who works in marketing knows, deadlines are always crazy.
And then there were the sticky notes. I'd get a little sticky note that said, "Hey, call me. I've got a project." And so, then I would kickstart from there and we'd backtrack, give them the form, they’d fill out the form, that kind of thing.
I managed all of those intakes in an Excel spreadsheet. For each project, I’d include a brief summary, the timeline, and notes so the designer, copywriter, or whoever had what they needed. I’d keep that updated for myself with the master, and then I broke it out so each designer got their own Excel sheet.
That sounds like a difficult to manage system, especially when you have multiple spreadsheets!
Yeah, I mean, it was “managed,” right? I wasn't drowning, but we could tell very quickly that we needed a better system. We did tons of research with other program management systems, free systems, and purchasable systems. We looked at what our business, as a whole, had from a PM system.
It mostly lived in our IT world, which worked a little but wasn't quite what we needed as a creative team. So we dabbled in that for a while, but then we decided there are unique and clear obstacles here. That's when we came across Wrike for Creative Teams. Wrike had everything we were looking for: proofing, intake briefs, and team communication all right in the project.
Before Wrike, we had project jackets. They were these little clear plastic sleeves you could stick your project in and pass around the room, figuratively speaking. If the project was digital, they’d still need to be printed out. But it looked different when it's CMYK versus RGB. So then we'd have these color problems because we wanted to view it digitally but it was in print. They would also get stuck on people’s desks. They were just a waste of paper.
One of the biggest appeals of Wrike was that we could use it as a proofing and approval tool. We now use those features exclusively, unless we’re working with a partner who doesn’t use Wrike.
"Wrike had everything we were looking for: proofing, intake briefs, and team communication all right in the project."
How exactly did you discover Wrike?
I think I researched literally every program management tool out there: Asana, Workfront, Basecamp, and Wrike. We had a list of criteria including intake forms, proofing, and approvals that we absolutely had to have. The solution needed to look nice from a UX and UI perspective --being a creative team it’s hard for us to stick to a solution if it’s not pleasing to look at. That's why Excel sheets are so gross. That sounds like a very superficial reason, but it ended up being a really nice perk in the end. After all our research, Wrike was the solution that hit all the marks.
What features do you find yourself using the most?
I love the dashboards! I use them all the time. I have my own that I look at from a project management standpoint that gives me insight into each team member’s workload. But then I also created a priority dashboard that I tag in yellow where I am able to prioritize certain tasks. It helps me let the designers know what they need to be working on first. I love that. I also love the fact that I can choose between the editing colors. I know it's superficial, but I love that I can choose different colors if I want to.
Are you familiar with the Wrike Way? Where would you say your company was when you first started your journey with Wrike?
When we first started with Wrike, we were right in between React and Organize. We were just in production mode, taking on all of this volume, churning it out, and not having space or the organizational latitude to really put time into each project because everything was just catching up.
But then as soon as we could get our folders in Wrike and get our reports and dashboards, it organized our internal life. We had some breathing room in our projects! We were able to issue out statements of work with our other departments and get them to see the light of pre-planning. Instead of just a few weeks, we could start planning for next year and determine what we’d be doing.
Would you say that you're using spreadsheets less and email less?
Oh totally! As far as our use of spreadsheets goes, we are at near zero. We still issue out a statement of work to our business partners in the form of an Excel sheet, but that’s about it. As far as emails for the team, I would say they went from all email before Wrike to probably 20% email with most of our communication happening directly in Wrike now. Most of that 20% is for partners who make minimal requests so we don't have them in as a collaborator or a user in Wrike. When I work internally with my team, it's probably 95% in Wrike.
"I'd say we've had a 20-25% increase in efficiency."
Those are great numbers! Have you been able to increase your ROI with Wrike?
Yeah, completely. We have gone from that production mode mentality to a more thoughtful and results-driven strategy. The designers aren't bogged down in the logistics of email and reaching out to partners. It's all right there. They don't have to go search through five email threads to get information.
It’s hard to quantify, but I'd say we've had a 20-25% increase in efficiency. Time spent per project, clarity captured for a project, all of those things have improved. We can now capture our hours in Wrike so we're able to build a business case to acquire new team members on our team. For example, this year we have two more team members, a graphic designer, and a multimedia designer because we were able to make an argument based on our statement of work that they were necessary.
The business discussions and collaboration across departments has been awesome. Our rapport as the in-house agency with the rest of the business has gone up because we are able to be organized and give more accurate details on timelines and projects. The quality of work is increasing too because we're no longer drinking out of a fire hydrant.t's all right there. Overall, I would say Wrike definitely has impacted the business.
What are your goals moving forward?
My goal is to get everyone (in the company) onboarded and not be just surface-level users of Wrike, but really champions of Wrike for their own teams. I’d love to get everyone into that Optimization stage. Another goal is to use Wrike to track budget and expenses, not just for our own team's initiatives, but also for helping our partners track their budget and expenses in projects that we're directly touching.
"As far as our use of spreadsheets goes, we are at near zero."
Is building Operational Excellence a priority for Safelite AutoGlass? And if so, is Wrike kind of playing a part in achieving it?
Of course. Our business is always pushing innovation, pushing forward our work to be the best, and providing the best workplace for our associates. So, yes, it’s a top priority for the business as a whole. Wrike has contributed to that and that's because our core function supports the entire business.
So like a rising tide lifts all boats, the more we elevate our work and are better able to support our business partners, our business partners are able to better support themselves and their projects moving. This positively affects the whole business and our customers that we're trying to provide service for.
Perrie and her creative team at Safelite AutoGlass are no longer relying on messy email threads and hundreds of spreadsheets. Instead, they’re taking advantage of Wrike’s powerful project management tools to organize their projects, speed up their workflow, and increase their bandwidth.
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